My research is mainly focused on understanding how the biochemical and biophysical properties of substrates can influence (and be used to control) cell behaviour.
In particular, I am interested in exploring the fundamental basis of cell-cell and cell-substrate interactions. To this purpose, I am interested in investigating how mechanotransduction – the ability of cells to sense, interpret, and respond to their biomechanical environment – works at the molecular level. The ultimate goal of my work is to find new and better strategies to manipulate cell phenotype using appropriate biophysical and biochemical cues. This will open new avenues for understanding and treating diseases, as well as to better control adult stem cells for therapeutic and biotechnological applications.
My research also involves developing new (bio)materials with applications in Cell Biology and Tissue Engineering, as well as finding new small molecule supplements to regulate cell phenotype. To this end, I awarded the New Harvest Research Fellowship in late 2018, the first post-doctoral grant in the world aimed at accelerating the field of Cellular Agriculture.
Specifically, my smart substrate designs provide mammalian stem/progenitor cells with suitable environments to attach, grow, and recapitulate tissue-specific differentiation and morphogenesis events in vitro. For that I use bottom-up approaches, where cells are instructed to re-create native-like tissues by finely controlling their responses to their surrounding mechanical and chemical environment, to create artificial live tissues that are, for all practical purposes, indistinguishable from their natural counterparts.
This cross-talk between applied and fundamental research provides a valuable feedback, simultaneously creating new challenges and original solutions. To this end, I have co-founder 3D Bio-Tissues Ltd, a spin-out company aiming at creating new, evidence-based corneal therapies.